September 20, 2001

Cornell Cinema: Green Lights Sneak Preview

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It wasn’t just talent, but also pure luck. The economy was booming, the stock market was high, and, as Robert Lieberman explains, “People were feeling momentarily rich.” It was the best time for people to invest in his film, Green Lights. The film, Lieberman’s pet project for ten years, finally came to fruition once the essential money-raising was taken care of. This weekend, the movie will be shown in a Sneak Preview at Cornell Cinema. The film’s premise has been kept under wraps, but it was affectionately dubbed “The Ithaca Movie.” It follows Bob Beeman, a location scout who comes to Ithaca as part of his job, but is mistaken for a bigshot movie producer.

Lieberman explains, “It’s a comedy/drama. It has peaks and valleys. I hope it’s fast moving.” While a movie about a mistaken identity is nothing new, the focus on Ithaca is. Ithaca was clearly a great source of help and inspiration to Lieberman. He says, “Ithaca has a certain feel to it. You get a feel for a town that is quite a unique place”. The film’s authenticity could not have been achieved without the full cooperation of locals, according to Lieberman. “If it had not been for Ithaca and the outpouring then we could never have done the film.”

People welcomed crews into their homes and Taughanock Aviation even aided the production by lending Lieberman an aircraft. “It was wonderful. I went to Los Angeles to film pick-up shots and New York. And everybody had their handout for money. And in Ithaca, people were volunteering whatever we needed,” Lieberman says. Ithaca got its face in the pictures too.

Auditions brought aspiring actors and actresses to the State Theater, where people wrapped around the block waiting for a chance to show their stuff. Lieberman recalls “We had hundreds, I lost count.” The film boasts real cops playing cops, lawyers playing lawyers. Many of the minor parts are filled by an amateur cast, but the leads in the film are seasoned actors. Lieberman did not have specific actors in mind when he made casting calls, but was rather “looking for the right faces, the right people.” Firing up the silver screen are Joel Leffert and John Fitzgibbon, whose work Lieberman admired from their New York City theater experiences.

Lieberman and his cinematographer are old hands at storytelling. Since starting to write at age 18, Lieberman has become a successful novelist, short story writer and documentary maker. “I’ve always wanted to do a fiction film,” he says. He’s wanted to write a screenplay adaptation of his novels, “but they’re always telling me that novelists can’t write screenplays.” Green Lights’ cinematographer, Slawomir Grunberg, has an impressive resum